Experience the Magic of Big Sur This Winter


This article was produced in partnership with Visit California.

Looking for more winter vacation ideas in the Golden State? See the whole Off-the-Beaten-Path Adventure guide here.

The perfect place to disconnect and get back in touch with nature, Big Sur offers jaw-dropping views of the rugged California coastline (71 miles of coastline, to be exact), all accessible via CA Highway 1.

This iconic destination has waterfalls, scenic overlooks, historic landmarks, miles of hiking trails, and some of the most beautiful coastal campgrounds in the country.

Big Sur is a bucket list destination for anyone who loves the outdoors, and winter is the perfect time to plan a trip. The off-season (November through February) promises easier lodge reservations, more campsites, and a chance to experience the magic that is Big Sur.

What To Do

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It’s a short hike from Highway 1 to this overlook of McWay Falls. Photo: Jordan Whitfield/Unsplash

The area has no shortage of scenic hikes. Andrew Molera State Park offers an 8.8-mile loop that boasts gorgeous coastal views from the bluffs and access to remote beaches.

Hop over to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and hike the three-mile Buzzard’s Roost trail through the shady redwoods. You’ll be rewarded with a panoramic view of the ocean and the Santa Lucia mountain range.

Don’t leave without stopping at Mcway Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that empties into a bright turquoise cove. Here, a short hiking trail leads to an historic lookout point, offering gorgeous vistas of the falls and coastline.

Big Sur has some great spots to fish. Hit up Nacimiento River for trout fishing – the best time to go is between mid-November and the end of February, when Steelhead swim up river to spawn. Remember to get a valid California fishing license before you go.

And when you’re a little tired and a little chilly from all that outdoor activity, get cozy at the Henry Miller Memorial Library, where you can cozy up by the fire with a good book, check out the art gallery or listen to live music.

Where To Stay

The yurts at Treebones Resort. Photo courtesy of Treebones

There’s no “bad” place to stay in the heart or even the outskirts of Big Sur – everywhere you turn is equally beautiful.

Plan your trip around what you truly want to do. Relax and enjoy the view at an increased elevation at Treebones Resort, while you “glamp” in style in one of their unique yurts. You’ll also have access to a pool, hot tub and the lodge, which serves up lunch and dinner daily.

Check out Ponderosa Campground deep in Los Padres National Forest if you want to be near the Nacimiento river for fishing. Riverside Campgrounds is situated along the Big Sur River and is closer to town. If you’re going for more of a cozy-cabin feel, Big Sur Campground and Cabins is your best bet.

Another economical option, nestled north of town, is Big Sur River Inn. It’s tucked along Highway 1 and features cabin-style rooms on the eastside and hotel-style rooms overlooking a sprawling lawn and the Big Sur river – not to mention, it boasts one of the few restaurants in the area, the River Inn Restaurant.

If you want a genuine camping experience, a few of the most sought-after camping spots can be found on the cliffs directly overlooking the ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The sites offer uninterrupted views of the Pacific, and the experience of getting lulled to sleep by the sound of waves crashing against the rocks below. But be forewarned: these sites are booked up to six months in advance.

Where To Eat

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Big Sur Bakery’s welcoming exterior. Photo courtesy of Big Sur Bakery/Kodiak Greenwood

Grab an early morning pastry, a cup of coffee or try one of many exotic teas at Big Sur Bakery before hitting the trails.

If brunch is in the cards, Big Sur Roadhouse has a minimal-yet-delicious offering for a mid-morning breakfast or lunch. Enjoy the back patio overlooking the river, or make yourself at home inside their cozy living room atmosphere, complete with a fireplace and games to play with the fam.

For dinner, Treebones’ Wild Coast restaurant offers up sushi and wine on their deck with ocean views. Or hit up Big Sur Taphouse for a beer.

Those looking to grab groceries for camping should stop by the Big Sur General Store. You’ll also want to grab a burrito to go from their burrito bar – you won’t be sorry.

How To Get There

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You’ll want to take your time winding along these picturesque cliffs. Photo: Robson Hatsukami/Unsplash

Part of the magic of Big Sur is the drive along CA Highway 1. Now that the highway is fully re-opened, you can easily get to Big Sur via CA-1 from the south or the north.

If you’re flying into California, the closest major hubs are San Francisco (SFO) and San Jose (SJC) International Airports, which are about a two-and-a-half hour or a two-hour drive, respectively. Monterey Regional Airport is also an option, albeit with fewer flight options, and will land you much closer to Big Sur. Coming from the south, Big Sur is about a 6-hour scenic drive from Los Angeles along the 101 and CA-1 highways.

See More from the ASN Guide to California’s Off-the-Beaten-Path Winter Adventures

Mt. Shasta Is California’s Hidden Mountain Gem

Escape to This Desert Oasis for A Unique Winter Getaway

This Small Stretch of Humboldt County Coastline Is the Perfect Wintertime Adventure

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